ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Bemidji State Opera Theater to perform 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' this weekend

When eager audience members file into the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex this weekend, they’ll be treated to the first full opera production from the Bemidji State Opera Theater since February 2020.

022322.N.BP.BSUOPERA - 2.jpg
Cast members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. The opera is set to open at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25. on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
We are part of The Trust Project.

BEMIDJI — When eager audience members file into the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex this weekend, they’ll be treated to the first full opera production from the Bemidji State Opera Theater since February 2020.

Returning to the stage with 25 cast members, a 16-person pit orchestra and 10 crew members, the thespians will don their theatrical garb once again for Gian-Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

The opera follows Amahl, a young boy with a physical disability, and his mother as they are visited by the three wise men of the Christian story seeking shelter on their journey to see the infant, Jesus.

Amahl’s mother is caught stealing some of the travelers’ gold, which leads to miracles of redemption, love and forgiveness.

022322.N.BP.BSUOPERA - LEAD.jpg
BSU opera cast members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Originally written for television and premiering on NBC in 1951, the hour-long show is on the shorter end for an opera production.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Although it’s not a full-length, three-hour and 45-minute opera, it’s the perfect show for the time we’re in right now,” said junior Blake Staines, who plays King Balthazar.

“The topic and content of the show is timely,” director and BSU professor Cory Renbarger said. “Regardless of your beliefs, it’s a story of redemption and togetherness.”

022322.N.BP.BSUOPERA - 4.jpg
BSU opera cast members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Setting the stage

With their final pre-pandemic showing being “Cinderella” two years ago, the BSU opera looked for ways to keep the music going once COVID had its grip on the world.

With social distancing requirements in place, last year’s opera took to the big screen with an operatic production, “Things Lost and Things Found.”

Showcasing scenes from various operas and musicals, the film was released in early summer as a way to still entertain the community when in-person entertainment options were limited.

“It was definitely a completely different experience because there were numerous opera scenes we were filming,” said senior Emily Bergeron, who switches off playing Amahl’s mother along with junior Emily Max.

“It was a lot like being on a film set with no audience and shooting in different locations,” Max said.

ADVERTISEMENT

022322.N.BP.BSUOPERA - 7.jpg
BSU opera cast members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Back in full capacity with a live audience, Max added, “Now, we’re not just singing into the void.”

The opera theater returned to the stage for a one-act fall production in November , “The Old Maid and the Thief,” as a way to help make up for the lost in-person production the year prior and realize Renbarger’s years-long vision of holding a fall show.

“A fall show was something I’ve always wanted to do, and (the fall show) and the upcoming opera share the same composer, so we started the year with both shows picked,” Renbarger said.

With auditions being held for both shows at the beginning of the school year, rehearsals for “Amahl and the Night Visitors” began in January averaging three nights a week with daily rehearsals a few weeks leading up to the performances.

022322.N.BP.BSUOPERA - 8.jpg
BSU opera cast members pose in full costume ahead of their upcoming production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” set to open at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25. on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.
Contributed

Observing mask-wearing in rehearsals and undergoing rigorous COVID testing has prevented any positive cases between the cast and crew and has enabled them to host an in-person show yet again.

“Even when you’re acting with a mask on, there’s still so much emotion we can read off of each other,” Staines said. “When the masks come off on performance night, the moments between the cast will be even more intimate and authentic.”

Met with applause

With the stage set, the actors look forward to getting into character and feeding off of the audience when the weekend comes around.

Regarding their shared part, Max and Bergeron take this show as an opportunity to gain different perspectives on their character when seeing the other perform.

ADVERTISEMENT

“(Max) is a soprano and I’m a mezzo, so it definitely sounds different when we sing our parts,” Bergeron said. “And I think our own personalities come into it. It’s nice, though, being double-casted because you can get someone else's point of view.”

When the curtain rises, both are excited to perform for family and friends again.

022322.N.BP.BSUOPERA - 6.jpg
BSU opera cast members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“We’ve been working on this the past few months from learning the music up until now, and adding in the costumes and pit orchestra will just make it more real,” Max said. “I think this is a show that everyone will enjoy.”

“Students and the music department as a whole are really excited to share music with the world again in this setting,” Bergeron added. “It’s exciting for a lot of people to attend and it’s just as exciting for us to make it happen.”

Staines sees this show as a chance to redeem opportunities that were lost during the pandemic and as a light at the end of the tunnel.

“The little things like being in a costume again and being without a mask on stage will be awesome,” Staines said. “The reception from ‘The Old Maid and the Thief’ has set an expectation for all of us that people are going to love what we’re putting on here.”

An added layer of excitement for Staines comes with donning a fake beard.
“The other two kings (in the show) can naturally grow beards, but my genetics have cursed me to be far behind in that regard,” he added with a laugh.

022322.N.BP.BSUOPERA - 5.jpg
BSU opera cast members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Renbarger looks forward to sharing the art of theater with the Bemidji community by showcasing the past few months of work.

“We have a wonderful facility and history of talent here at BSU,” Renbarger said. “Bemidji loves the theater and has always enjoyed the shows happening at BSU. This opera gives community members a chance to celebrate life in this way.”

Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25, and Saturday, Feb. 26, with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27. All shows will take place on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.

Tickets can be reserved by calling (218) 755-3352 . The cost is $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and children.

Masks are required for audience members.

022322.N.BP.BSUOPERA - 3.jpg
Cast members rehearse a scene from their upcoming production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. The opera is set to open at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25. on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
What to read next
Michael Herbert, an amateur World War II historian, spent more than two years researching and writing his recently published book titled “Leaving Campus: A World War II Epitaph.”
The 35th season of the Bemidji Area Church Musicians Summer Recital Series continues at noon on Wednesday, July 6, at the Evangelical Covenant Church, 5405 Hart Lane NW.
Headwaters Music and Arts' annual vocalist competition, Bemidji Sings!, is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, July 15, at the Bemidji Community Theater, 316 Beltrami Ave. NW.
On Wednesday, June 29, the Paul Bunyan Playhouse board of directors announced the cancellation of performances for July 1, 2, and 3, due to COVID-19.